Spotting A Gem At The Workplace

Apr 24, 2015 1 Min Read


A young professional asks: What distinguishes talent from other concepts such as competency and skill?

Recruitment makes all the difference in an organisation. Selecting the right people for the job means getting the proper fit, therefore ensuring the attainment of optimal performance.

Traditional means of forecasting performance has been shown to be poor predictors of actual performance. Thus, in its place behavioural interviews at the candidacy level are now implemented as a better gauge for competency.

Yet how do we accurately measure talent? Is competency only measured in terms of intellect and skills or do other characteristics come into play as well?

Hidden talents

Competency is defined as the fundamental characteristics of a person that enables superior performance in any given situation.

Figure 1: Iceberg model

With only one-ninth of its volume above water, the tip of the iceberg is occupied by knowledge and skills. These can usually be picked out during an interview and can be easily developed with training, however, they are poor predictors of future performance.

On the other hand, self-image, traits, motives and values that are beneath the surface are better predictors of performance but are difficult to assess and develop.

When identifying talent, it is therefore essential to select talent with rooted competencies that have an organisational fit rather than to train talents for short-term high performance.

Performance and potential

In identifying talent, it is first crucial to quantify performance and potential.

Performance refers to a person’s ability to exceed expectation in results and behaviours while potential refers to one’s ability and motivation to advancement.

High performers unswervingly exceed expectations and are usually very good at what they do. They are also the kind of employees who take pride in what they do. However, they may not necessarily have the potential to take on more complex tasks.

High potentials on the other hand are usually harder to pick out, as employers are not able to accurately assess them.

In the end, it is not just what the company wants from the employee, it is also what the employee wants from the company. With these values aligned, exceptional performance can ensue.

Preserving that gem

What is it that employees value these days when it comes to choosing a career path? Let’s use an example between two common types of organisations in business.

Organisation A:
Your ideas are taken into consideration and you feel valued. This organisation also adopts a more laid-back atmosphere with flexible working hours and a non-hierarchical working structure.

Organisation B:
You find yourself following rigid rules, and your colleagues see you only as competition. The biggest difference is that this organisation pays RM20,000 more annually.

For a Gen-Y graduate like myself, only one of these options appealed to me. Money still matters, but not very much. Same goes for stability.

I was more interested in finding myself the right culture and atmosphere, and so I chose to join organisation A.
For many young college graduates and young professionals, there are options aplenty. It then becomes a battle for traditional companies to retain fresh talents of the current generation.

Empower and support

Employers must understand how important it is to provide the necessary training, material, time and means for task completion.

In addition, employees should be granted the freedom of planning and decision-making so they will take ownership towards delivering their best work.

Such responsibility helps employees feel embedded with the company, and this subsequently increases their reasons for staying on with the company.

Relationship maintenance

Employers should offer feedback and evaluation discussions to ensure rapport is maintained between employer and employee.

Communication should also be conducted in an open and honest fashion to ensure opportunities for socialising exist outside of work.

Identify and reward

Showing appreciation for an employee’s efforts will boost his/her morale among peers, besides ensuring that he/she feels valued for his/her efforts.

Employees should also be fairly rewarded with monetary and non-monetary rewards that lead towards career advancement. Fair incentives and recognition can ensure that talent stays with the company.

Challenge and cultivate

The prospect of promotion will retain talents; they will be reassured in staying with an organisation if there is evidence of a promising career trajectory.

A strong focus on training and introduction of skills workshops should be incorporated to ensure employees strengthen existing skills as well as acquire new skills.

Employees should also be given many instances to lead projects or even start new projects as this allows them to take on more responsibilities for future career progression.

In conclusion

Here at Leaderonomics, we aim for work-play balance in a nurturing, fun working environment.

There is a strong sense of camaraderie, which translates to better engagement as a team. By aligning our competencies, the company works towards its vision of transforming our nation through leadership development.

“It’s all about fielding the best team. The team with the best players wins, so find and retain the best players.” – Jack Welch

Stephanie Ling from HELP University is the recent addition to the Youth Division in Leaderonomics. She is passionate about helping others be the best versions of themselves and believes that everyone is able to make that happen regardless of the circumstances thrown at them. Drop us a line or two in the comment box below or email us at For more Starting Young articles, click here.

Published in English daily The Star, Malaysia, 25 April 2015

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Stephanie is currently pursuing her masters of organisational psychology at the University of Sheffield. Being a firm believer in a person’s potential, she hopes to help others use that potential to make a difference in their own lives.

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